Nairobi, KENYA: It is time for Mercy Muthoni to give her testimony but for now she cannot speak.
Her baby had started crying and she excuses herself to breastfeed her 2 month old infant.
The 19 year old high school student comes back after while, braving the stares of curiosity that befall her as she walks to the podium.
“Teenage motherhood is not an easy journey. Right now instead of reading books I have to multitask by educating myself and singing lullabies,” Muthoni remarked.
“When I got pregnant I was seen as a mistake but the fact that a life is relying on me I realized that no matter who stares, who judges, who talks, the fact that I am still strong for my child is already a success. I try not to focus on the negative side of it such as sleepless nights, balancing my education and breastfeeding pain,” she boldly said.
Ms. Muthoni is bitter because she says that if someone had given her information as early as when she was 10 she could have prevented herself from being pregnant.
She added that mostly 10 year old girls are seen as children with no worries in life so they are often neglected.
“In reality so much is going on. From seeing funny stuff growing on our bodies to finding where we belong in our circle of friends, don’t forget the fights we witness at home. It is time you provided. It is time you consider mental and health checkups for 10 year old girls,” she advised.
She suggested that age appropriate comprehensive sexuality health lessons be given to girls who are starting puberty.
“If I could access such kind of education early enough I could not be the mother of a 2 month old baby”.
The State of World Population 2016
The recently released State of World Population by United Nations Population Fund UNFPA states that the typical 10-year-old today lives in a developing country.
Almost 9 in 10 of them live in less developed regions of the world.
1 in 5 lives in the 48 least developed countries.
“In some parts of the world age 10 is a time for exploration and rapidly expanding horizons. But in some other parts of the world a girl suddenly viewed as a commodity that may be sold, traded or trafficked for marriage, for labour or for sexual exploitation,” said UNFPA Deputy Representative, Gift Malunga.
Ms. Malunga said that protecting girls at a younger age is a wise idea as girls who reach adulthood with an education and rights intact stand to triple their lifetime incomes.
“Our collective future depends on how we support today’s 60 million 10 year old girls today as they start their journey from adolescence to adulthood. Today’s 10 year old girl will be 24 when progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals SDGs are tallied in 2030,” she remarked.
“Over the next 15 years alone, developing countries together stand to gain or forfeit at least $21billion, depending on whether they invest in the well-being of their 10 year-old girls today.”
Ezekiel Ngure from UNFPA stated that the SDGs are clear on not leaving anyone behind.
He added, “If more attention is given to these girls we will be able to achieve SDGs goals. We will end all forms of poverty, improve gender equality as well as their well-being and quality of education.”
Saving the 10 year old
The 10 year olds are a forgotten lot because attention and budgets have been allocated to children especially those under 5 years, adolescents and women in their reproductive health years.